CHENNAI: Greenpeace India has had a very uncomfortable few months. From a government crackdown on foreign funds and the resulting fiscal crisis to the mismanagement of a sexual harassment case seeing top leadership resign, the ‘crusaders for the environment’ have walked through a very hot piece of terrain. But Greenpeace is finally trying to revert focus to their core purpose — pro-environment activism.
A few days ago, Greenpeace India sent out an e-mail notifying their donors, members and the public at large of a leadership change, promised a host of new campaigns and in the meantime, requested them to support an initiative that had fallen by the wayside — their national ‘Solar Street Light Initiative’, one among many to have been overshadowed by the series of controversies. This one was particularly unlucky, in that it fell smack in the middle of the financial crisis and the flaring up of the sexual harassment case.
Aptly titled ‘New Beginnings’, the email bid adieu to both Samit Aich and Divya Raghunandan with a mix of “sadness and excitement” and welcomed the new interim executive directors Vinuta Gopal and Sanjiv Gopal. Both Aich and Raghunandan were at the helm of the organisation for the last several years until the sexual harassment case and its mismanagement saw both resign on June 24. Raghunandan quit on the same day.
But the new e-mail brings focus back to campaigning. Launched a month ago, the Solar Street Light initiative — a campaign running for more than a year for Delhi, was expanded into a national effort. It asked the Urban Development Minister to include it in the policy for the 100 Smart Cities programme, with currently over 9,000 signatories to the petition. “We had coupled the Delhi campaign with our rooftop solar campaign when the Nirbhaya incident happened. But the national campaign for the 100 Smart Cities was started just last month,” said Pujarini Sen, Climate and Energy campaigner with Greenpeace India. This is the campaign that Greenpeace has chosen to get back on track.
Greenpeace also has on the drawing board plans to expand the Delhi campaign to light up dark spots with solar powered street lamps across India. “Maybe one city in the West, one in the South and so forth. But this is just something we are thinking about and will be volunteer led. The organisation is not in a big planning phase right now,” said Sen.
A position backed up by Greenpeace India’s Political Advisor Nirmala Karunan, who said that Greenpeace is only looking forward and will not be letting its past troubles bother it.